Thursday, June 12, 2014


I  myself first got involved in the whole grand jury business shortly before one went off in 1971 and indicted me and three of my brothers on bombing conspiracy charges.. I joined with many others to fight back against  a wave of political grand juries launched by the Nixon Justice Department then and  throughout the early 70s.  Later I found myself helping to organize the Committee to Stop the Grand Jury which was supporting resisters to a grand jury investigating the Brink truck robbery carried out by the Black Liberation Army around 1981, if I remember correctly.  I got back into the grand jury resisters support issue with one up in Iowa that was harassing animal rights activists...and never looked back.

The State loves the grand jury and has used it forever to repress political activism of all stripes.  We must continue the resistance against them.

I have written here about grand juries many, many times over the years.  One such article which I posted and which never grows old  suggests what to expect and what to do if, and when, you are called upon by the State to do their dirty deeds for them.  The article entitled "Walking Through a Grand Jury" is available HERE.

Today, though we go to Seattle, well, and beyond.  In Seattle several activists were called before a grand jury back in 2012 to testify about Occupy protests which took place there on May Day.  These folks were asked by their kindly federal agents who kicked down their doors to pay a visit behind closed doors to a not so grand jury.  As SLOG wrote in April:

...some who appeared before the grand jury—such as Katherine Olejnik and Matthew Duran—weren't in Seattle when the vandalism happened and report they were asked dozens of McCarthyesque questions about other people's political views and social affiliations. When they refused to answer such questions, they were thrown into prison (and eventually solitary confinement) for several months.

But not everybody agreed to stand before the grand jury—a few fled, including an activist named Steven Jablonski, who went to Montreal. He's come back...

Upon his return Steve had some things to say.  Here are some excerpts from his remarks published by Puget Sound Anarchists:

 Hi, my name is Steven Jablonski. I am anarchist and Grand Jury Resister.

After living in exile in Canada for about a year and a half, I returned to United States about a month ago. My return was not meant to be secretive but I felt the need to take some time for myself to collect my thoughts and decompress before I releasing an official statement. I now feel ready to break the silence and clarify some of the confusion around me being subpoenaed for the Seattle Grand Jury investigating May Day 2012 in Seattle...

 In July of 2012 several people in the northwest received subpoenas to testify for a Grand Jury investigating anarchist activity and property destruction that occurred at the 2012 Seattle May Day Anti-Capitalist Demo. In late July I received a phone call from someone claiming they were an FBI agent who stated that I had been subpoenaed to testify in front of Grand Jury and how they could deliver that subpoena to me. A subpoena only goes into effect once it is “served” to a person, which means the physical subpoena must be hand delivered to the person. I made the decision to resist the grand jury by leaving the country rather than risk being served and testifying in front of the Grand Jury.

I was and still continue to be firm in my belief of noncooperation with the State. I was fairly certain that if I refused to answer the Grand Jury’s questions that I would be held in civil contempt and placed in prison. Without passing any judgment on the decisions other Grand Jury Resisters have made, I did not feel comfortable presenting myself to the State for a prison sentence. I understand that jail and prison are a fact of life for many people in this world and I also understand that by engaging in anarchist activity one can also risk imprisonment. I want do everything possible to resist cooperation with the state and I also refuse to willingly walk into my own prison cell....

Clearly the State is not happy with my and others decisions to not cooperate with this investigation. Despite this, all except one of the people involved in the  investigation have maintained strict noncooperation with the investigation. But the investigation is now coming to a close. The past year and a half has most certainly been the most interesting and difficult year of my life. With the help of both old friends and new friends, anarchists both near and far, and the inspiration I have felt from my fellow Grand Jury Resisters and comrades, some things are finally coming to a close....

I also want to be clear that I stand in full solidarity with those anonymous vandals who attacked the William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse in Seattle on May 1st 2012. There are few things I desire more than to see institutions of power targeted and attacked. I strongly identify with the insurrectionary anarchist tendency and believe that those acts of crime and rebellion that occurred on that day in Seattle serve as a small example of how people can physically attack institutions of Capital in their never-ending quest for liberation.

As excited as I am to be home, like most things in life the experience is bitter-sweet. I have had some wonderful experiences over the past year and a half and returning home has not been an easy thing to do. As frustrating as the past nineteen months have been, I know I am coming out of this experience as a stronger person with stronger bonds, and clearer idea on what affinity, friendship, and anarchy actually mean to me. But ultimately, I’m just glad to finally be home.

Solidarity with all other Grand Jury Resisters and those in Exile!
Freedom for Amelie, Carlos, and Fallon! (The 5E3 Prisoners)
Long Live Anarchy!

What follows is an interview with Steven by Doug Gilbert.  Doug is the author of the book I Saw Fire: Reflections on Riots, Revolt, and the Black Bloc recently published by Little Black Cart, and a stalwart contributor to anarchist media projects in the Bay Area.  It is borrowed with gratitude from CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective.


In 2012, Steve Jablonski was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and chose instead to leave the United States. In this interview, he describes his interactions with law enforcement and his time on the run.

Running from the Devil

An interview with grand jury resister Steve Jablonski

If you were contacted by the FBI, what would you do? Do you know who you would call? Would you be able to find a lawyer? Would you quit your job? Would you talk to your partner, your comrades, your parents? More importantly, would you talk to the government? If the FBI informed you that you were being made to stand before a grand jury, at which you could not have a lawyer present and you might face jail time if you did not answer questions—what would you do?
In 2012, several anarchists in the Pacific Northwest had to answer these questions. They were brought before the court to determine if they knew anything or anyone that was connected to a riot that broke out on May Day of that year. Three people kept their mouths shut and did several months in jail. One other person talked and was released, and quickly vanished without telling her former friends what she had done.
What follows is the experience of another person, Steve Jablonski, who took another route. While standing in solidarity with other people in the Pacific Northwest who resisted the grand jury, Steve instead decided to leave the country in order to avoid spending time in jail. Steve, like his comrades, kept his mouth shut in the face of government repression, but also faced other obstacles. He had to contend with the police forces of another country, and continues to face the realities of political repression now that he has returned.
There are many ways to defy the powers that be. Sometimes, you keep your mouth shut and do a few months; other times, you flee the country. We leave it up to you, dear reader, to choose what is right for you.“Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”
–T-Bone Slim
Say Nothing (information about grand jury resistance)
Why Riot (an essay)
About Grand Juries
Solidarity with Steve

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you arrive in the Pacific Northwest and become an anarchist?
I grew up in New Jersey, about 45 minutes outside of New York City. I lived out there till I was eighteen, when I moved out to Olympia, Washington to start going to college. I started getting interested in anarchist ideas when I was around thirteen our fourteen. I was introduced to them through the punk and hardcore music I was listening to at the time. But up until I moved to Olympia, anarchism was always just words and ideas in my head; I was not involved with any anarchist projects.
Once I moved to Olympia, I started being a part of the anarchist movement. I came across my first black bloc about a month after I moved out to Washington, at the Seattle Anti-War demo that happened in October 2007. But shortly after that, all of the port militarization resistance stuff was happening in Olympia [physical blockades of military equipment being used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]. This was the first time I witnessed street fighting with the cops, property destruction as a political (or “anti-political”) tactic, building barricades in the street, etc. The resistance obviously was not explicitly anarchist, but there were lots of different anarchists involved in the various organizing meetings and street confrontations. So basically, since 2007 I have been living in the Puget Sound area, aside from the time I spent in Montreal. I have maintained being heavily involved in anarchist projects since arriving in Olympia.
Why did the FBI target you after the May Day riot on 2012?
Well, the story of the FBI targeting me actually started about a year or so before the 2012 May Day riot in Seattle. In early 2011, there were a lot of anti-police demos in Seattle around the murder of John T. Williams. He was an indigenous man who was known in the city for being a prolific wood carver. He was shot dead at point blank range by Seattle pig Ian Burke. Burke was acquitted of all charges and this triggered several confrontational demos in Seattle. Along with these demonstrations, there were various acts of anonymous property destruction around the Puget Sound area, mainly in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. The two biggest actions were the attempted arsons of the police substations in both Seattle and Olympia. A few days after the attempted arson on the cop-shop in Olympia, I was approached by FBI agents when I was taking a jog around my neighborhood. They rolled up on me in an unmarked car and started talking a bunch of shit to me. They said things about how me and my friends were going to go to prison for a long time and they knew that we were the ones who burnt down the substation, that it was just a matter of time before they would come and arrest us. They also referenced me as “Mr. Sabot Infoshoppe,” because that was the name of the anarchist student group in Olympia that I was the coordinator for.
A few months after that, the FBI went and talked to both my mom and my aunt on the same day, both of whom live in New York. They told them how I was an anarchist terrorist and how I was going to end up in prison if I don’t change the direction of my life. A few months later I got detained by the TSA/FBI when I was flying down to the Bay Area. They told me they knew I was an anarchist and, once again, that I was going to end up in prison for a long time for the things my friends and I had done.
Several months after the May Day riot on May 1st, I received a phone call from someone saying he was an FBI agent. He referred to himself as “Special Agent McNeil” and said he had a subpoena that he needed to deliver to me. Obviously, at that moment it was a huge shock to receive such a phone call, but at the same time, the FBI had already harassed me multiple times before, so it was not entirely out of the blue.
How did you come to a decision to leave the country?
After sitting down with a couple of friends and talking over all the options I had available, I decided that I did not want to walk into my own prison cell. If you refuse to testify before a grand jury, you are likely to end up serving a prison sentence for civil contempt. I knew that under no circumstance would I testify at the grand jury and therefore that I would be going to prison for up to eighteen months. But I had a very unique circumstance; a subpoena is only valid if it is delivered to you in person. Because the FBI had the wrong address, they were not able to locate me. I definitely don’t think they expected me to just take off like I did. In reality if they had never called me and had just tracked me down, my options would have been entirely different.
After I’d sat down with friends, the choice became pretty clear. I totally understand that prison is a reality of life for many people in this world and that by my involvement in anarchist activities I certainly risk ending up spending some time there. But something about presenting myself to the state for a prison sentence did not sit well with me.
Was it difficult for you to get into Canada?
Actually no, it was surprisingly easy. I mean, the emotional and mental aspect of leaving my friends and not knowing where I was going and what I was doing was extremely terrifying, but the actual border process was simple. At that point, I don’t think the FBI knew that I was going to leave the country. I think they underestimated just how committed all the grand jury resisters were.
I took a bus from Bellingham, which is only about thirty minutes south of the US/Canada border. I told the border agent I was going to Vancouver for a few days to look at grad schools and within three or four minutes I had entered into Canada. It was one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced.
Were the authorities aware of you living in Canada?
For sure. Within a few months of my arrival in Montreal, I was stopped by CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service)—which is like the Canadian equivalent of the FBI, but they do not have arresting powers. I had also gotten voicemails to my old US phone from “Special Agent McNeil,” about how I was not going to win this battle and I would regret my decisions. It was also pretty obvious that my new phone was tapped and that some of the emails from my yahoo account were being read by the FBI.
What was the emotional toll while living in this situation?
The emotional toll was really, really heavy. Being away from my friends, who I’m closer to than my family, was definitely hard. Also, none of us knew that I was going to be gone for twenty months. The Grand Jury ended up getting a six-month extension, which caused another delay in my return.
The hardest part was that my older brother died in December of 2012, when I was still in exile. Because of my legal situation, I was not able to attend the funeral or spend any time with my family. If nothing else in the world has solidified my utter hatred for the Capitalism and the State, then being torn away from attending the funeral of my brother certainly has. It’s something I have lost a lot of sleep over and still have only begun to address.
Luckily, I was able to have a wonderful group of people in Montreal who offered more support than I have ever received in my life. I don’t know what I would have done without the anarchists I met in Montréal.
In what ways did the authorities fuck with you while you where there?
Oh man, in lots of ways. I got harassed by CSIS on multiple occasions. Throughout the year and half I was there, I would say that I was harassed about ten times. The most intense harassment came from the Montréal city police (SPVM). One night I was walking to the store a block away from my apartment and they stopped me and threw me in the squad car. They drove me about forty minutes outside the city and left me in a random industrial parking lot. They took my phone, keys, wallet, jacket, and shoes. Luckily, it was September so it wasn’t too cold, but I had to walk about a half mile just to figure out where I was and get ahold of my roommates.
Also, during my last two months there I was definitely under something like 24-hour surveillance. The cops were stopping me almost every day for a straight week and posting outside my new apartment for hours on end. It was a pretty surreal experience, but my friends in Montréal definitely did everything they could to help me get through it.
Have you been harassed since coming back to the US?
Yes. I was in the Bay Area a few weeks ago and two FBI agents approached me as I was leaving the BART station. It was a really short interaction and they basically just said they were here to welcome me back. Creepy.
But another close friend of mine was also stopped by the FBI a few weeks ago when he returning from Europe. They interrogated him for an hour or so but he refused to answer any questions. So the FBI hating on all our lives is still very much a real thing. But at this point, it is something that I am trying to get used to rather than just eliminate, because I don’t think it’s very realistic the Feds will be going away anytime soon.
Looking back, did you feel like you were supported?
Overall, I would say yes. I felt much supported by US anarchists as a whole. I think the response people had to the Grand Jury was really inspiring in a lot of ways. I think some of my individual friends could have done a better job at being there for me and given that, I have definitely been reevaluating a lot of my relationships. But at the same time, I feel like many of relationships have been strengthened from this experience, and I have built more trust, affinity, and love with some of the people in my life. I kind of feel like, if my friendships can make it through an experience this intense and straining, they should be able to make it through anything. And that is a pretty great feeling to have.
I will say that I was extremely inspired by all of the solidarity actions that happened all over the world. Just off the top of my head I can think of actions that happened in Australia, Greece, France, and definitely everywhere across the US and Canada.
Somebody burned down an “Eco-Condo” in Seattle and claimed solidarity with the grand jury resisters and that was something that really excited me. It was really nice to see that in such an intense time of repression someone(s) were willing to throw down like that. I was really happy to see people continuing the anarchist struggle in solidarity with all the resisters who couldn’t participate due to the repression we were facing.
It appears that grand juries are not going away any time soon. What advice would you give people facing a similar situation?
I would just want to let people know that there are lots of different ways to resist grand juries. For some people I think it makes a lot of sense to appear in front of the judge and then do their time for contempt, but for others fleeing a subpoena is a much more appealing option. It’s kind of like, nothing in life happens in a vacuum, and each person needs to decide on their own what way they want to resist. I think talking it over with friends is a pretty essential thing to do. I know when I first got subpoenaed I was really freaking out and it pretty much felt like my life was falling apart, but I had good friends around me who were able to keep me in check, and let me know that I wouldn’t be going through this thing alone.
But I will say that I think the “legal” strategy is a strategy that one can use, but certainly not a strategy that one has to use. Sometimes it makes sense to use this strategy, but I feel like portraying oneself as a victim is almost essential to having a successful legal strategy. In a way, it is true: when the State fucks with you, technically, you are a victim. But I try to understand that the state is fucking with me and my friends because they don’t like us, and myself and my friends in turn hate the State. For me, it is important to say that I don’t give a fuck about rights. I’m not interested in portraying myself as a victim because I view the State as my enemy. I seek no sort of resolution between myself and domination; I want it to be completely destroyed. The courts, the prisons, hetero-supremacy, white supremacy—I want to work on consistently attacking the manifestations of these forms of domination.
Clearly these are ideas that don’t fit into any sort of legal strategy, but I’m not concerned with a legal strategy. No disrespect to any anarchists who are focused on their legal strategy, but I feel really glad to be able to use this opportunity to let people know there is more than one way to successfully resist a grand jury.
Long Live Anarchy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Here is a short day for you with an entire book to read.

I have now reached the point in Piketty's book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" where he lays out his plans on how to deal with the problems of capital which he documents so well. I will likely find this the section with which I have the most disagreement. Piketty is not a Marxist, surely not a communist. I am. However, I can now say this without hesitation. Anyone who is at all concerned with capitalism, with inequality, and who has the time and the means to read this book - should. I don't really care if you do or you don't and I am not really interested in taking the time to write some long opinion piece, review, critique, but I can tell you that almost everything I have read which is critical of the book sounds as if it comes from people who never bothered to read it, are economist jealous of what Piketty has accomplished, or have a dogmatic ax to grind.  Further, and pointedly, I ask the critics, where is your data?  

Again, Piketty does not claim to be a Marxist. However, Marxists should surely read his book. This book provides real data, real evidence, real research which will be invaluable to those of us involved in the fight against capital for a long time to come.

Someone has made a PDF of the entire book and posted it here.  Far be it from me to comment on whether this should have been done or not.  Far be it from me to say you should go to that link and read it.  I am merely making notice of it for the simple purpose of saying someone did it.  Of course, we all know you should go out and buy the book. We all know that Mr. Piketty should reap the monetary benefits of his work.   However, there is nothing I can do about what has already been done.  It's already out there and it is the capitalist organization known as GOOGLE which is making it available.  For shame...

By the way, it is not necessary to tell me that Piketty is not Marx, is not a revolutionary, is trying to save Capital, is a social democrat, is not a communist, is not a Marxist, is a social democrat, etc. etc. etc. We all know all that. That isn't the point. Don't be scared, you won't get any cooties by touching it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Okay, I guess it is time to jump in on Bowe Bergdahl.  Actually, I don't need myself to write anything as longtime activist Mitchel Cohen has written the article for me.  There is nothing I can really add, so why take up time and space.  I would probably write the article a little differently, but so what.  This will do just fine.

PS, I met Mitchel, though he may not remember, back when I think he was in something called the Red Balloon Collective...

PPSS, I also knew Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn (mentioned below).  I met her through both political work and while I was employed at the Westport Free Health Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri.  She was, and I presume still is, a remarkable woman.

The following is from the blog Mitchel Cohen.


by Mitchel Cohen, June 6, 2014

For years, Arizona Senator John McCain hammered President Obama for failing to exchange prisoners being tortured in Guantanamo for American POW Bowe Bergdahl, imprisoned in Afghanistan. Now that the President has finally done so (after years of trivial squabbling while Bergdahl as well as the so-called “enemy combatants” wasted away in prison), Sen. McCain flip-flops and attacks President Obama for finally doing exactly what McCain had been advocating!
Meanwhile all those chicken-hawks in Congress and the corporate media — mostly those who skipped serving in the military themselves while sending other people’s kids to kill and to be killed in wars that they started and voted for — blast away at what they perceive to be Sgt. Bergdahl’s political beliefs as a pretext for letting him rot in an Afghan prison. Perhaps every soldier taken prisoner should be required to fill out a form as to their beliefs, to be scrutinized word by word by members of Congress, the Taliban and the media before being certified “politically correct” and redeemable by the Good Housekeeping Presidential Seal of Approval, freed from prison and brought home?
I wonder if Sen. McCain himself would have passed muster, during his confinement in Vietnam after dropping bombs on civilians in that country.
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on their show Democracy Now! have broken so much new ground over the entire week in exposing Congress and the corporate media’s hypocrisy in interview after interview and report after report, that they deserve, in my opinion, to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their brilliant work.
Meanwhile, the corporate media’s national hit parade against the freeing of Sgt. Bergdahl from his incarceration as an American soldier in Afghanistan belies their curious notion that soldiers are all gung-ho for the wars they’re sent to fight, and that any soldier who doubts or criticizes U.S. policy is a traitor to their country and to the oil and natural gas pipelines they’re sent to secure at the behest of Exxon-Mobil and BP. Forget the hundreds of “fragging” incidents in Vietnam, in which U.S. soldiers assassinated their commanding officers who were sending them to kill or be killed for no discernible cause other than the financial interest of giant corporations using soldiers (and civilians) as cannon-fodder to maximize their profits.
In that vein, I am re-posting here a series of essays I wrote of the tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers who deserted, went AWOL, or resisted in other ways the orders of the U.S. military during the 1990-91 Gulf War. In renouncing the orders of their military commanders, these soldiers, like Bergdahl, are heroes. They are courageous and moral individuals — the very best America has to offer — standing up for humanity in the face of enormous pressures to do chicken-hawk Dick Cheney’s, Bill Clinton’s and George Bush’s fighting for them.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl – THANK YOU!


The story of the widespread resistance of working class kids in the U.S. military to the 1991 Gulf War.

During the 1990-91 Gulf War, between Aug. 2, 1990 and March of the following year, more than 13,000 U.S. soldiers resisted the war’s drumbeat directly. Hundreds were imprisoned, and tens of thousands of others went AWOL.
Enraged soldiers, including a number who went AWOL, along with seafarers from other countries, actually blocked or sabotaged shipments of munitions to the Gulf. In one incident, a German-owned container vessel, the Eagle Nova, staffed by German officers and crew members from the Philippines, refused to deliver military goods to the Saudi Arabian port of Dammam on the Gulf.1
In another case, 27 Moslem crew members on the Banglar Mamata, a Bangladesh vessel, jumped ship in Oakland, California, rather than continue on to deliver their cargo of ammunition to U.S. troops.2 Unionized Japanese officers and crewmen on container ships and tankers chartered by the U.S. also refused to transport U.S. military cargo to the war zone.
International working class direct actions against the war build-up were, in fact, so wide­spread that officials worried that “supply disruptions could become frequent enough to affect U.S. front-line fighting ability in a long war.”3
In one incident, 67 National Guard members from Louisiana went AWOL as a group from Fort Hood, Texas, in early February to protest inadequate training, unfair leave policies and racism, in the shadow of the war. Tod Ensign, a staff person for Citizen Soldier, termed it “the largest known act of mass military resistance” during the Gulf war.4 


On Dec. 9, 1990, a Vietnam veteran, Tim Brown  described by the Associated Press as “a genial, upbeat person who lived alone on a houseboat and rarely discussed politics”  died after setting fire to himself in Isleton, California, to protest the US military build-up in the Gulf. In leaflets he’d placed on nearby car windshields, he’d written: “I, Tim Brown, Vietnam veteran, declare that my act of self-immolation is a direct protest of American war policy in the Middle East. America, do not go to war. America, do not repeat the mistake of Vietnam. Don’t wait for the war to start and then protest. Protest now while there is still time.”
On February 17, 1991, at the height of the U.S. bombing of Iraq, Gregory Levey, a former UMASS student and special education teacher, set himself on fire while carrying a peace sign. He died on the Amherst Commons in Massachusetts, in protest of the US bombardment and the murder of innocent civilians there. “No Blood for Oil!” and “Hell no, we won’t go, we won’t die for Texaco!” became the battle cries of the burgeoning anti-war movement.
Unlike the self-immolation of Buddhist monks during the Vietnam war, these courageous and heart-wrenching acts received virtually no publicity in the mainstream media. Only one or two papers picked up the AP story on Tim Brown’s act. But our own media, including WBAI radio in NYC and the Pacifica network across the U.S., The Guardian, and newly formed groups likeHands Off! (see below) got the word out and helped to stir an already growing unrest within the military. Military resisters began appearing everywhere, in and out of uniform, speaking out ag­ainst the war despite threats of court-martial and imprisonment.
While held captive in Iraq as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down, Lt. Jeffrey Zaun of New Jersey was a media hero, much like Jessica Lynch a decade later. TV and newspapers plastered his picture all over their pages. But that hero worship lasted only until he got back, and Zaun offered his views on his experiences in the Gulf: “This country didn’t see the cost of the war. I did. People think we went in there and kicked ass; but they didn’t see the Iraqi mothers get killed. I don’t want to kill anybody again.” The press buried his statement, as the U.S. military used bulldozers to bury alive tens of thousands of poorly armed Iraqi working class conscripts in the desert sands.
Those who tried to persuade their fellow National Guard members to resist were deemed “ringleaders” and court-martialed. Sgt. Robert Pete received a six-year prison sentence while Dwayne Black and Derrick Guidry received a year each. All three additionally received dishonorable discharges.5 And many of the approximately 2,500 U.S. soldiers who filed for conscientious objector status during that time were held on serious “desertion” charges; they faced long prison terms for their public anti-war stance.
In addition to those court-martialed here at home, over a hundred anti-war GIs in Germany were still being held by military authorities as late as March, 1991, or were forced to go into hiding. Soldiers returning from Saudi Arabia reported hundreds more GIs being held there.6
In a steaming packed courtroom on the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, court-martial proceedings ag­ainst dozens of Marines who resisted the Gulf Warwent on all through the summer, with nary a word in the corporate press.
Captain Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, an Army doctor, refused orders to be shipped to the Gulf. When Huet-Vaughn denounced the war on the nationally-syndicated Sally Jessy Raphael TV show and remarked that some of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons were made by U.S. companies, Sally Jessy lost it. She came storming up to the doctor, got her face about seven inches from her and screamed: “Get out! Get off my show!,” reported WBAI’s Amy Goodman, who was also a guest at the taping. Huet-Vaughn claimed that, as a doctor, her training was to heal people, not to murder them. At Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Capt. Huet-Vaughn, a Mexican-American, was confined to the base 24 hours a day, forced to call-in her whereabouts every 4 hours, and prevented from seeing her children in private (they had to remain outside at all times when they visited her). Fifty to 60 supporters packed all of her hearings, refusing to allow the government’s machinations to be hidden behind closed doors.
Sam Lwin was a student at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Just twenty-one years old, he faced seven years in jail for organizing his Marine Corps reserve unit, Fox Company, at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx to resist. He had filed for Conscientious Objector status before the unit was activated in November, 1990. Lwin, along with seven other COs from his unit, refused the call-up. Sam faced 7 years in jail, a dishonorable discharge, and loss of all benefits including health care and pension for refusing to kill. His fellow students at the New School formed the groupHands Off Sam!, which soon took on the cases of other resisters, went national, and became, simply, Hands Off! (Lwin ended up serving 4 months in prison, a reduced sentence thanks largely to the wide­spread support organized by his fellow students.)
Ronald Jean-Baptiste was one of the first of the Gulf war resisters. He spoke publicly at the first anti-war rallies as a Haitian-American, saying: “They won’t let me donate my blood to help people because I’m Haitian, but they want me to shed it for them and to kill people. I won’t do it.”
Stephanie Atkinson of Illinois was court-martialed out of the Army Reserve for refusing to fight in the Gulf. Upon leaving the military, she became an outspoken critic and went to work with the War Resisters League defending other resisters.


Why don’t we remember their names, these resisters, these direct action heroes of humanity, who faced such terrible personal consequences and yet still refused to kill for U.S. imperialism? Why have their actions been written out of the accounts of the resistance within the military to the Gulf War? These were resisters who refused to be pawns killing other poor people for oil, profits and empire. They acted with great moral courage, saying: “This is what’s right, this is what’s not, no power on earth can move me from this spot.” Nor should we forget what they were up against, these kids  for that’s what most of them were. They were thrown out of the military and into jail, lost their scholarships, their jobs, sometimes their families and friends. We often hear how much we owe to veterans who fought in this country’s wars. But we owe far more to those who refused to fight, our anti-war veterans, for putting their bodies against the wheel of the war machine and causing it to slow down, and sometimes to stop.
Remember Kevin Sparrock, a student at New York City’s School of Visual ArtsErik Larsen, a student at Chabot Com­munity College in California; and, Tahan Jones. They were among the most visible of the resisters because they helped organize anti-war demonstrations across the country. They were accused of desertion during a time of war. The government filed briefs against them calling for the death penalty.
Remember Eric Hayes. He was the president of the Black Students Association at Southern Illinois University, and a Marine Corps reservist. Eric was dragged out of his dormitory room in the middle of the night in December, 1990, handcuffed by military police and hauled off to the brig at Camp Lejeune a thousand miles away for failing to report when his Illinois unit was activated. (Eric was eventually sentenced to 8 months in jail.)
Remember Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff Paterson. On Aug. 29, 1990, he refused orders to board a military transport plane for deployment to Saudi Arabia. When his staff ser­geants attempted to push him onto the aircraft, Jeff sat down in the hangar and refused to move. (Jeff became a leader of the anti-war movement, and worked with Refuse and Resist!)
Remember Demetrio Perez and James Summers, both students at Santa Fe Community College in Florida, andJohn Isaac III, a student at City College of New York. They were charged with “Desertion with Intent to Shirk Hazar­dous Duty” and “Missing Movement” for resisting orders to ship off to the Gulf; they were court-martialed and found guil­ty. (Perez was sentenced to 15 months, Summers to 14 months, and Isaac to 8 months at hard labor.)
As it became evident that more and more military personnel were none too eager to fight for the Emirocracy and the expansion of the American oil empire, the U.S. military began kidnapping resisters and forcing them onto planes headed to the Gulf. In one case, Sgt. Derrick Jones, a medic, filed an application as a conscientious objector and left his unit for several days. Through his lawyer, he negotiated with his commander, Capt. Cloy, to return to his unit, and was promised that he would not be charged with missing movement as he waited for his CO claim to be processed. But when Jones returned to his unit in Germany, he was immediately taken into custody, handcuffed, dragged onto a plane and flown to Saudi Arabia against his will.
The same thing happened to David Owen CarsonRobert Chandler and dozens of other military resisters. Bryan Centa, a medic stationed at Lee Barracks in Mainz, Germany, had also filed an application for a conscientious objector discharge. Centa was handcuffed and put in leg irons and “dispatched” to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Attorney General failed to file a single complaint against the military in any of the dozens of kidnappings, or acknowledge the racism involved in many of those incidents.
This being America, how could racism not have played a very prominent part in the government’s attitude towards the resisters? Sometimes it came out in stupid but relatively innocuous ways, such as a military superior’s explosion when a white French reporter, Judith Weiner, embraced and kissed Sam Lwin, a native of Burma, during a recess at one of his hearings. Sergeant Richmond, a white man and Lwin’s platoon troop-handler, ordered Sam into the hall and screamed at him: “You’re not supposed to show affection while in uniform.” Since all across the country troops were seen on nationwide TV coming home hugging and kissing while in uniform, Richmond’s explosion was clearly triggered by the fact that Lwin, an Asian, was kissing a white woman.
Or, take the case of Danny Gillis. Gillis, a Black man from Baltimore, was court-martialed on charges stemming from a racial attack on him. He faced seven years. Along with Jimmy Summers, another of the resisters, Gillis had been held in solitary confinement in a cell measuring six feet by eight feet.
Gillis became a Moslem after he had enlisted in the military; he filed for conscientious objector status in November 1990. On December 17, Gillis’ unit was ordered to Saudi Arabia, and he refused to go.
As the rest of the unit boarded the bus, Gillis sat down on the concrete and refused to get on. Staff Sgt. Schillumeit, who is white, ordered him onto the bus. Gillis again refused. Unable to get him onto the bus, the sergeant called four white Marines to tie Gillis’ hands behind his back and beat him up.
Meanwhile, two Black Marines, passing by, saw four whites punching and kicking a tied-up Black man and came to Gillis’ defense. Officers as well as enlisted men standing- by entered the fray on both sides according to their race. The fight continued until a colonel ordered everyone to “clean it up.” At that point, Schillumeit called for a van with wider doors, and Gillis was thrown into it. A minute later, however, he managed to jump out, run about ten feet, and collapsed, screaming: “You’re prejudiced. I’m going to get all of you…on griev­an­ces.” Gillis was arrested and thrown into the brig for 41 days. In addition to “missing movement,” Gillis was charged with disrespect of a superior officer for saying “You’re prejudiced,” willfully disobeying a lawful [sic!] command, disorderly conduct, and wrongfully communicating a threat for saying “I will get all of you.”
Facing seven years in prison before Judge Oul­ette, Gillis, like many of the others, felt he had no choice but to accept a plea bargain arrangement; the prosecutor consolidated all the charges into one offense, and asked for a 12-month sentence. Oulette, in a vicious act, rejected the agreement between Gillis and the prosecution and sentenced Danny Gillis to an ad­ditional half-a-year in jail on top of the 12-month agreement.
Gillis required an operation on his shoulder due to injuries received during that fight. Meanwhile, one of the Marines who came to Danny’s defense during the fight, Jody Andersondid go with his unit to Saudi Arabia. Jody, like virtually all the Marines, never saw combat despite all the hoopla; but the Marine Corps did wait for the war to be over before arresting Jody on charges of mutiny, inciting to riot, three counts of assaulting an officer, threatening officers, and disobeying a direct order. All told, Jody faced life imprisonment plus 44 years.
“This was clearly a political decision on the part of the military,” said Melissa Ennen, of the New York City-based Hands Off!, who organized support for the resisters at Camp Le­jeune and who now runs a movement space in Brooklyn known as The Commons. “The government,” she asserted, “was try­ing to conceal the extent of anti-war activity within the military, isolate those it considered the ringleaders and crush those who had the courage to resist.” More soldiers deserted or went AWOL for political reasons during the build-up and course of the Gulf war than in any similar period this century, including the Vietnam years. No wonder President George H. W. Bush felt such a need to “finally overcome the Vietnam syndrome.”7
And yet, most of the non-governmental organizations that made up the Campaign for Peace in the Middle East — one of the two nationwide anti-war hierarchies — deserted the deserters. Was it because of the challenge to national chauvinism, not wanting to appear unpatriotic? Or perhaps it was because unlike the majority of visible resisters in the 1960s, most of the Gulf war resisters were African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans? At any rate, The Campaignwent AWOL on this issue.
Small grassroots organizations like Hands Off! did heroic work in defense of the resisters, filling the void as best they could. Due to shortage of funds, military resister Jody Anderson was forced to retain one of the non-movement lawyer sharks, who totally botched his case. Where was the National Conference of Black Lawyers? How about the National Lawyers Guild? For the period of the Gulf war these two erstwhile progressive formations didn’t lift a finger for the military resisters! The National Lawyers Guild feigned involvement by putting up stickers around military bases with a “hot line” for resisters to call, and hired their own secretarial staff at $10 an hour to answer the phones. But when soldiers called, they were told the NLG had no trained lawyers available and that they should call Hands Off! or the War Resisters League.
As a result of lawyer incompetence, Jody Anderson was sentenced to two years in jail. Anti-war resisters rallied to Jody’s cause; his trial and sentencing created a real bond between many of the soldiers who went to the Gulf and those who resisted, which allowed them to organize in the brig.
In a similar travesty of justice, the army reneged on a plea-bargain deal with Sgt. John Pruner at Fort Riley, Kansas, that would have limited his incarceration to 6 months. According to Tod Ensign of Citizen Soldier, “Pruner was one of two soldiers who exposed the Army’s changed policy on COs. The policy made it more difficult for Saudi-bound GIs to win con­scientious objector status.” Pruner faced 6 years in pris­on. As Pruner’s court-martial began the army, foreshadowing what would be applied to all defense lawyers a decade later, denied security clearance to his lawyer and prevented him from reviewing documents needed for his defense. Nothing in the corporate press!
Even full-scale race riots went unreported. One soldier, returning to New York from the Gulf, told The Guardian that race battles within the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia were common. “White commanding officers regularly gave ‘on site’ promotions to white Marines; when Black Marines complained, wholesale battles between whites and Blacks took place,” he said. The military simply covered it up. Some racial “incidents” in the military did make it into the press. But, in general, they have been “whitewashed.”
Take the case of Cpl. Anthony Stewart, a Black soldier who at first was reported to have committed suicide. Under pressure from Stewart’s family and others, the military revised its version to say he had “accidentally” killed himself. As more and more pressure was put on the military, including charges of racism and cover-up, the Marine Corps again altered its version, and put on trial Lance Cpl. Steven Quiles, a white soldier in Stewart’s platoon, for “accidentally” killing Stewart while cleaning his M-16. Quiles was sentenced to 15 months at hard labor, even as others reported that Stewart’s death was intentional and racially motivated. Quiles didn’t serve a single day in prison for the murder. In addition, his bad conduct discharge was revoked, and he returned to the good graces of the military. Stewart’s parents, meanwhile, are still demanding a full investigation.


The military’s fabrication of the events around Stewart’s case is eerily reminiscent of its “spin”, to put it nicely, ar­ound football star Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan 12 years later. Although not racial, Tillman was killed “accidentally” by soldiers in his own platoon. Sports writer Dave Zirin fills in the blanks: “Pat Tillman is the only NFL player  or professional athlete  to die in the theater of war since September 11th, 2001. He walked away from millions of dollars to join the U.S. Army because of the way 9/11 shook his system. On 9/12/01, Tillman gave an interview where he said, “My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars, and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”
Twenty-two months after enlisting, Pat Tillman was dead. His memorial service was aired on national television. The Army awarded him a Silver Star for his “gallantry in action against an armed enemy.” They said Tillman’s convoy had been ambushed in Afghanistan. They said Tillman charged up a hill to protect his men but was shot down by the Taliban. Responding to this heroic story, the National Football League, as they are quick to mention, created statues and memorials in his honor.
… [But] the Pentagon’s official story, the very story the NFL initially embraced, is an awful lie. Tillman actually died in friendly fire, a fact that was criminally hidden from his family, his fans, and to the greater public. Tillman also began to turn against the war before his death, telling friends in the Rangers that he believed th war in Iraq was “illegal.” A voracious reader, he started reading anti-war authors in an attempt to wrap his head around how he had become the most famous solider in an endless conflict.
After the Bush administration finally revealed the truth, Tillman’s shocked family and friends did the only thing they could do: fight to find out the real facts of his death. They went public with the narrative of a Pat Tillman that was inconsistent with the Bush administration and NFL’s. They put forth a Pat Tillman that was an intensely iconoclastic atheist, turning against war.
The misrepresentation of Pat Tillman’s death speaks to the lies used to sell war, and to the way people’s rage and grief was exploited in the wake of 9/11. But thanks to the tireless work of his family, and the creators of the documentary The Tillman Story, his true story is now public knowledge. As Pat’s mother Mary said in The Tillman Story, “I think they just thought, if they spun the story and we found out … we’d just keep it quiet because we wouldn’t want to diminish … his heroism or anything like that … but, you know, nobody questions Pat’s heroics. He was always heroic. What they said happened, didn’t happen. They made up a story, and so you have to set the record straight.”8
The Gulf War military resisters’ depositions are filled with reports of abuses, many of them racial, that began once they applied for CO status. They were subjected to endless harassment. One of the most common complaints was that they were regularly ordered to perform extra night-time duty, which meant they could sleep no longer than three hours in a row, night after night. Florida native Doug DeBoer testified that he had been intentionally deprived of sleep by being forced to stand excessive night watches. “I have had night watches virtually every night of the week for three weeks in a row … During the day I am like a zombie, and have become sick because of sleep deprivation,” DeBoer said, as he received a 15-month sentence.
Thirty-three Catholic bishops, from 23 states, called on President Bush to “stop the military’s prosecution of conscientious objectors” and to grant them amnesty and honorable discharges (although as a group they said nothing about the war itself). Many French Green Party delegates to the European Parliament expressed their indignation at the treatment of the resisters in letters to the U.S. military, citing “deprivation of sleep, isolat[ion] in special cells, [and] censure of mail.” And the Canadian branch of Amnesty International sent an observer to the trials of Demetrio Perez and Jimmy Summers, and adopted several resisters as prisoners of conscience.
One resister who attempted to apply for Conscientious Objector status was told by his white commanding officer: “Blacks can’t apply for CO.”
“Why not?” his mother asked.
“Because of their culture.” His mother sought clarification. “Because Blacks are from a violent culture.”
Such stories of racism in the military are not isolated instances, any more than they are in civilian life. On one occasion a North Carolina judge intoned: “I’ll have none of this talk about Black or white in my court. It’s irrelevant whether the officers are Black or white. There is no racial prejudice in North Carolina.” The spectators could only laugh. “He apparently could not understand what we found so pathetically funny,” one said.
Sam Lwin reported being called “Chinaman” and “gook” throughout bootcamp. “I was ordered to count from one to ten in Burmese and to sing in Bur­mese by my ser­geant, in front of other drill instructors,” he told me. During his conscientious objector hearing, Lwin was stereotypically asked if he knew kung-foo or karate. One drill instructor told Lwin directly, “I don’t like you because you’re oriental.”
Lwin was the first resister to come to trial at Le­jeune. At his court martial the government’s star witness, Cpl. David Patrick Conley, admitted under cross-examination that he had bragged: “The last good deed I do for the Marines [before being discharged next month] is to send Sam Lwin to jail for 20 years.” Lwin’s commanding officer, Capt. Gaspar, admitted that he had berated Lwin for applying to be a conscientious objector and gave him a rough time, but considered his harassment “advice”.
Marquis Leacock, an African-American resident of New York City, said that the resisters were “the only ones who have eight platoon sergeants to take care of 14 of us. We are called names such as ‘communist pig,’ ‘traitors’ and degrading references to our race and culture.” Leacock received a 1-year sentence.
One of the sergeants “enjoyed ordering us to line up and chant ‘I am shit’ over and over,” said one. In the brig, they were not allowed to read political literature. Authorities monitored diaries and artwork, and censored outgoing and incoming mail. Resister Demetrio Perez reported that military officers tried to force them to sign documents against their will and without approval of their attorneys.
James Summers recounted, “When I arrived at the brig, the guards immediately started making fun of me and my CO status. They put me in leg irons, handcuffs and chains around my waist, and locked me in my cell for five days. I was taken out once a day for five minutes to take a shower.” Enrique Gonzalez, a student at Nova University School of Law in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told of being denied transportation and of being forced to walk up to 12 miles a day back and forth to work, unlike the other soldiers.
The resisters’ supporters packed the courtroom every day and set up a “peace camp” around 20 miles away. Their presence made a crucial difference in the trials. Before packed courts the resisters began to win important pretrial motions against the Marine Corps, challenging the overwhelming mistreatment and harassment. One judge ruled that their confinement to barracks was illegal and permitted them to leave the base. Most importantly, he recognized that the harassment they underwent was not made up of isolated incidents but was systematic and illegal, opening the way for class action suits against the military.
Many of the resisters wrote movingly in their Conscientious Objector applications about the development of their anti-war beliefs while in the military. Why did they, whose backgrounds are really not very different from other soldiers, choose to buck the military’s ideological stampede and retain a semblance of humanity in the face of jackboot patriotism and brutal, murderous authority?
Marcus Blackwell, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a student at the Boro of Manhattan Community College when he resisted the call-up, wrote: “Universal love should be the basis of man’s action and this should be apparent in his deeds. I respect other people and live by that rule. War destroys more than just property or landscape. It also destroys human beings and the human soul.
“When I joined the military, fighting a war was the farthest thing from my mind. Some people may say that my thinking was very muddled. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even picture myself being on the front line in a war. Well, my thinkingwas muddled. I looked at joining the military as a job. I thought that being in the military was one way to be a successful person.
“But when I was sent to the School of Infantry in Camp Lejeune, my eyes were really opened. I was exposed to various types of weapons that can be used against a person, like the .50 calibre machine gun, the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the AT-4 Rocket Launcher. Learning how to invade enemy grounds and throwing hand grenades made me wonder, ‘Is this really me that is doing this?’
“So now I was able to shoot and kill a person from 500 yards, destroy whole families and villages and kill people through the air. But who was I really harming? I was harming myself. I was harming my spirit, disrupting that inner peace and harmony that holds me together…. The job I was doing may have been good for the Marine Corps, but it was not for the good of man.”
Blackwell was sentenced to 17 months at hard labor in a military prison.
Sgt. David Bobbitt, of Staten Island, New York, also believed that his experiences in the Marine Corps prompted him to examine his beliefs on war. During infantry training, he wrote, “I saw a man fall from a helicopter to his death. It was very hard for me to accept that he had died, and even harder still to comprehend the casual attitude toward his tragic death by the other Marines. Are we really the superior beings on earth? And if so, is it because we can destroy and maim everything on this planet?
“My military occupational skill is 0311; what that comes down to is rifle man. My job was to learn all about weapons and how to use them effectively. It sounded very intriguing at first; after all, I enjoyed hunting for animals. After boot camp, I found out what my job really was; it was no longer so intriguing. For that matter, neither was hunting for animals.”
Bobbitt was sentenced to 14 months in jail; along with Blackwell, he received a dishonorable discharge.
Meanwhile Dick Cheney, Stephen Solarz, Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, William Bennett, Rush Limbaugh and a host of feverish warmongers all somehow managed to avoid having to troop off to the Vietnam or Gulf war themselves, but they had no compunction about sending others, economically poorer and powerless, to kill and to die in the Gulf — or to send resisters to wither away the best years of their lives crushing rocks in prison.
For most of the resisters, their experiences upon joining the military were far different than what they’d been taught to expect. As one of the resisters, (former) Lance Corporal Colin Bootman, explained: “I was born in Trinidad, West Indies, and immigrated to New York when I was seven. After receiving my green card and education in America [I joined] the mil­itary during my second year at the School for Vis­ual Arts. I immediately felt alienated from the military mentality expected of me. I felt like I was supposed to be proud, but I wasn’t. I kept denying this, thinking maybe I could grow to like it. Every drill I saw guys walking around with knives tied to their breast or hip and I thought, How come I don’t feel like they feel?
“After serving two years in the Marine Corps my feelings toward training began to consciously change. An important influence on my thinking were the enlightening conversations I had with members of my family who were involved in Grenada. My aunt Jacqueline Creft was the former Minister of Education in Grenada and a leader of the New Jewel Move­ment. She was assassinated as a result of the political turmoil. In addition, one of my cousins lost his leg trying to escape the full impact of a blast. My family told me that no one knows exactly how damaging and cruel war can be until it happens. Aside from losing lives and limbs, many people lost their homes and land. My family encouraged me to leave the military because they saw no future in waging wars.” Bootman served a 2-year jail term for refusing to kill.
For (former) Lance Corporal Keith Jones, the “poverty draft” was also very real. He was born on Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia, and moved to New York City when he was four. His father served in the Air Force for twenty years, including in Vietnam. When Keith began attending City College of New York, the Marine Reservist recruiter offered him a steady paycheck of $140 a month for three years, special college loans, as well as the less tangible but equally important emotion-bolsters of honor and pride.
At first, Keith said, he felt proud of his achievements at boot camp. He was “close-minded” to anti-war organizations on campus. But a little bit later, after acting in a play written by Vietnam veterans, he decided that the abstract language of Infantry Training School, such as “You will take many casualties,” served to hide the real physical mutilation of young men’s bodies in war. Keith was, at that time, studying advanced weaponry; he was learning what it was capable of doing. He refused to fight, and joined a Buddhist temple committed to world peace. Keith was sentenced to 16 months in prison, where he hammered out license plates.
The paths by which each individual came to reject the military were varied and multi-faceted. They don’t fit neatly into behaviorist Skinner boxes; resistance to oppression takes many forms, and contrary to some, greater oppression does not necessarily imply greater resistance as though human beings are rats in a maze pressing the bar at the end for cheese. We do not fall comfortably into “politically correct” niches, coming to consciousness only in ways approved by the bastions of moral rectitude. But there are certain common elements that provide the soil that nurtures resistance and fosters the cou­rage to take enormous risks. Especially important are strong community ties which encourage and support their humane sentiments, and serve as counterweights to the false “community” offered by the military.
Still, many in the peace movement refused to take up the cause of the resisters. “What did they expect? That’s what the military is for. It’s not a jobs program” was a common sentiment. Many in the peace movement accepted the U.S. government’s demonization of the Iraqi “enemy”. They wrapped themselves in yellow ribbons and American flags, pretending that they did so in order to “reach” the American people and not out of their own desires to be accepted by the country they criticized. Such opportunism tied liberals in moral knots; they were unable to “reach” even their own checkbooks to defend those in the military who refused to kill for big oil and the exigencies of U.S. imperialism, or to understand why so many people, particularly Blacks and Latinos, felt compelled to join the military.
“Few people thought they’d be sent off to kill people and die when they joined the military, or to bomb the hell out of civilians and have none of that reported on the news; in fact, the military’s advertisements hardly made mention of war or killing at all,” Hands Off! coordinator Melissa Ennen argued. “Although there was no compulsory legal draft, there was, in effect, an economic one. Working class kids saw no jobs and no future for them in civilian life. The military presented itself as a ‘way out’ of the cycle of poverty.”
The “false advertizing” of the military lured working class and poor youngsters to enlist. The glamor of Hollywood’s popular “clean war” macho films like Rambo, and a desire to “be all you can be” and “serve your community,” played a significant part in the resisters’ defense during their court-martials. It is no coincidence, they argued, that over 30 percent of the U.S. troops deployed to Saudi Arabia were people of color, double the percentage of the U.S. population as a whole. 46 percent of the women stationed there were Black, while only 6.7 percent of the officers in the military are Black or Hispanic. And, as many Black and Latino people have been finding out, in the military racial polarization is not overcome in the face of a “common enemy” but is dra­matically intensified … and the horrible results covered up.
Some of the resisters were undoubtedly confused. They had not thought out all the ins and outs of imperialism. They did not issue long tracts on political economy — they were not guerrillas of “thesis warfare protracted,” firing wordy salvos from their tenured ivory tower perches (although many of them were students). But many of those refusing to support the military resisters also tended to reduce youngsters’ motives for joining the military solely to economic needs and a “poverty draft”  again, rats in a maze. They missed a fundamental point about youngsters’ desperate socio-psychological need in this society for community and to be meaningful. Thus, they led the anti-war movement in pursuit of false strategies. Prior to the Gulf war, high school students who used the subway station near my apartment told me of their disgust with the “me-first-ism” they felt all around them, the lust for gold chains and material greed. They wanted something more communal, more artistic from life. Many said they would volunteer for the military (the so-called “economic draft”) “to serve their country,” not, as most liberals believe, primarily to get out of desperate economic straits but to find some higher purpose, some philosophy of collectivity and idealism. They often quoted John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” to explain their feelings. (Hard to believe that many of us once upheld such liberal notions as a virtue!) They tragically believed they could find such higher purpose and community in the military.
Where was the peace movement for these kids? Why didn’t it help them develop true alternative communities to the one they wrongly believe existed in the military? Each night, I ripped down recruiting posters on the train station near my apartment and tried to talk high school students out of joining the military. But there was little to offer in its place. Where were the anti-war movement’s sports teams, political clubs, alternative discussion groups, community centers, draft counseling? It was not until high school students themselves organized groups like Students Against WarStudents for Social Justice and Food Not Bombs that kids were able to find some alternative to the pseudo-community they expected from the military  a crucial component and overlooked function of Occupy Wall Street. Those kids 20 years later “got it”.
War Resisters League organizer Michael Marsh observed the same frustrations: “During the Gulf War, countless soldiers told me how they had joined the military because they felt out of control of their lives and needed discipline. Others enlisted seeking to replace feelings of hopelessness with meaning. Still others joined in search of self and community. As shocking as it is to think that someone might join an institution based on killing to find community, it shouldn’t be all that surprising either. Our country is being filled by a moral vacuum and increasingly younger children are finding themselves alone in this space.”9
The government’s response in countering the power of com­munity was and continues to be to try to isolate and stam­pede the individual, making the price of anti-war resistance so high economically, psychologically and physically that resisters would be driven to plea to lesser charges for things they didn’t do and forgo their political and moral stances in exchange for “getting it over with” and lighter sentences.
In spite of feelings of despair, frustration and sadness that all of us in the anti-war movement fall into (not surprising given the never-ending stream of mur­derers running the country), in actuality there is an enormous source of hope here: In the courage of the resisters who, against all odds and with no liberals trying to “raise their consciousness,” found ways to resist; in the new, creative tactics invented by affinity groups during the war, and the emergence of new communities of support when the larger, more established umbrella organizations failed; in the new alternative press networks and dyna­mic high school groups; and, in the realization that, no matter how sad and desperate the situation, people alwaysfind ways to refuse to “only follow orders.”
Groups like Hands Off!, Citizen Soldier, the War Resisters League, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors,Storm Warning!Vietnam Veterans Against the War and many local activists become mainstays of support for resisters; and, indeed, the communities of local resistance that sprang up around them made all the difference in the world. New groupings took responsibility for each other and began projecting a different, healthier and more revolutionary vision than the organizations they supplanted. That organizing became a factor in the early release of many of the resisters who had applied for conscientious objector status.
Yet, at the time, the war’s liberal opponents refused to support resisters in the military. With the exception of notable work done by the War Resisters League and such groups as Hands Off! and Citizen Soldier, the “Campaign” — striving to keep its mainstream membership organizations in fold — supported “our” troops but, beyond token efforts, failed to support our resisters.
Iraqi draftees and civilians were not deemed worthy of even that consideration. They were treated as demons sent by the “insane” and “worse than Hitler” Saddam Hussein to “destroy our way of life.” “We should support sanctions and a trade embargo against Iraq,” said one leader of the Socialist Party at that time (a member of the Campaign),10 a theme echoed by many of the Campaign’s leadership; in fact, that was its official position. It was as though the people of Iraq, whose lives were being devastated by the trade embargo as well as the bombing, needed to be punished and it was our moral responsibility to do so — with much the same sanctimony as those who have taken it upon themselves to finger someone throwing a rock at a demonstration to the police.
Solidarity groups like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador forgot to express their solidarity with the people of Iraq. The anti-war Military Families Support Net­work, made up of the relatives of those sent to the front, waved U.S. flags at every opportunity and never put a human face on those whom their children were being sent to murder.
Many in the anti-war movement failed to challenge Bush’s demonization of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi people, and Arab people in general. They rarely said a word about the tens of thousands of civilian casualties. Those were merely “collateral damage.” But when Saddam’s Scud missile attacks killed several Israeli civilians,11 the mainstream peace movement’s visible leadership launched diatribe after diatribe against Iraq  as though Iraqi citizens were responsible for their dictator’s war crimes and should be forced to pay the terrible price  providing political cover for the U.S. government’s murder of a quarter-of-a-million Iraqi people outright, and 500,000 more  many of them children  over the next decade (the Clinton/Gore years), a result of the embargo and ongoing bombardments. To quote Clinton’s Secretary of State, Mad­el­eine Albright: “Yes, we think the price is worth it.”
As it turned out many of the Israeli civilians said to have been killed by Saddam’s Scuds were in actuality killed or injured by Israel’s use of defective U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missiles manufactured by the Raytheon Corporation. (Saying that does not excuse Saddam’s targeting of civilians in any way, but it does reveal the extent of the U.S. over-the-top propaganda effort.) The media echoed military officials and called those deaths “collateral damage”  when they chose to report them at all. Despite company officials’ prior knowledge of such defects, to this day no Raytheon executive has been indicted nor Raytheon factory bombed by B-52 airplanes.
“Peace activists who focused solely on the pros­pect of American deaths gave credence to the bombing strategy, resulting in a larger civilian death toll, but fewer casualties among American soldiers,” wrote then-Wisconsin activist Zoltán Gross­man, referring to the Campaign’s strategy. “Either we accept Iraqi civilians — and soldiers, who are drafted involuntarily into service — as human beings, or we don’t. Either we defend them as we would our own families, or we acquiesce in their slaughter.”
But this the Campaign was unwilling to do. Mostly, the resisters in the military were people of color; they provided leadership and inspiration to the radical antiwar movement, which scared the hell out of the Democratic Party-oriented liberal donors — the “loyal opposition” — accustomed to calling the shots. The resisters’ shadows loomed large between the evil and the whitewash. Thousands of working class kids in the military courageously resisted the war. They dared to reclaim their humanity, in a season of robots. Only rarely did the Campaign’s mar­ches confront the war-makers on the basis that the mass slaughter of Iraqis was wrong in and of itself. In the minds of many, Iraqis deserved to be starved by sanctions or bled by bullets.12
The Campaign certainly didn’t want to see radical fingers pointing at U.S. imperialism; it offered patriotic support for the U.S. government, pressing only to curtail some of the excesses of what its member organizations saw as a “democratic and just” government whose policies were a little bit too extreme. The Campaign condemned the policy decisions of both sides equally (“on the one hand / on the other”) as if the giant and the gnat are identical, or that the U.S. government’s murder of a quarter-of-a-million Iraqis, mostly civilians, was but an unfortunate and perhaps over-zealous (but justified!) act, and that the reports in corporate media could be trusted. Imperialism? “Don’t use such terms,” we were told. “It’ll just ‘ali­en­ate’ people.”
As Bradley Manning‘s trial begins this week, the anti-war movement seems to have finally learned its lesson and is organizing support for this hero, who stands on the shoulders of all these other heroes and sheroes who came before. And that is a very important development.


1American Maritime Officers Service, News Briefs, March 1991. The ship had been hired by American President Line for commercial feeder service between the United Arab Emirates and India.
2ibid. Once the crew jumped ship, the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command canceled its charter for non-performance, and the vessel’s owner suddenly came to the conclusion that the ship was “unseaworthy.”
4Mitchel Cohen, “For Each and Every Warrior Whose Strength is Not to Fight,” Guardian, May 1991 and also in Fifth Estate. Also, Mitchel Cohen: “Pentagon Ups Penalties for Military Resisters,” The Guardian, Feb. 6, 1991; “Gulf War is Not Over for Military Resisters,” The Guardian, May 29, 1991; “They Didn’t Follow Orders,” Fifth Estate; and, “The Real Heroes Series,” produced by Storm Warning, Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist, 915 East Pine, #408, Seattle, WA 98122.
5Guardian, June 5, 1991.
6Ruth Turner, Military Counseling Network.
7This only touches the surface of the massive resistance within the military and outside of it to the Gulf War. So much has been forgotten or covered up. At the time, I and others at The Guardian newspaper in New York City carved out articles week after week while at the same time participating in the direct action arm of the resistance movement. See “Read My Apoca-Lypse: The Gulf War and the Mass Psychology of Fascism,” for much more on this subject.
8Dave Zirin, “Where was the Pat Tillman story on NFL Sunday?,” The Nation, September 12, 2011.
9Nonviolent Activist, Jan.-Feb. 1994.
10Currently, the Socialist Party, at least in New York City, has become much more radical under new, youthful working class leadership.
11Scud warheads weighed in at one-quarter of a ton in explosive power, compared with the tens of thousands of tons of explosives rained on Iraq daily by B-52 carpet-bombing.
12See, Mitchel Cohen, “Read My Apocalypse: The Gulf War and the Mass Psychology of Fascism,” Red Balloon Books, 1998